West Australian councils have backed an “aspiration” by the State Government to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, saying rapid action is needed because climate change’s consequences, including longer fire seasons, are already happening.
The announcement by State Minister for Energy, Bill Johnston, means WA becomes the final state to set a zero emissions target; the ACT aims to achieve it in 2020, while the NT does not have a target.
“Local Governments have acknowledged that we are in a climate emergency, and urgent action is needed by all levels of government to meet Australia’s Paris Commitments and avoid the dangerous aspects of climate change,” WA Local Government Association President, Cr Lynne Craigie, said.
“Climate change is a significant issue for Local Governments, in that it cuts across almost all aspects of their operations and responsibilities.
“In fact, the impacts of climate change are already being felt in Western Australia, with rising sea levels, longer fire seasons, more extreme fire danger days and a clear drying trend in the State’s south.”
WA Energy Minister Johnston said while the State Government backed the Commonwealth’s target of cutting emissions by 2030, its emissions policy would give the WA Environmental Protection Authority “clarity” for assessments of major projects.
“Industry and the broader community have been calling for more guidance, and this aspiration provides the certainty needed for future major projects,” he said on 28 August.
“It is a sensible and balanced policy, that will allow industry to harness innovation and create jobs here in Western Australia.”
A broader WA climate policy was being developed and would be released in 2020, he added.
WALGA’s President Craigie said local councils – which are already reducing emissions and enacting adaption measures ¬– looked forward to contributing practical steps in that policy.
The emissions goal follows a recent WA Government study into coastal erosion risks from climate change and sea level rises which said erosion will damage roads, buildings and other assets, and managed retreat may be required within 25 years.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said last month that managing coastal erosion should not just fall onto the lap of Local and State Governments, especially given the damage climate change is causing coastlines.
He told the Council of Australian Governments meeting on 9 August that while members agreed coastal erosion could be referred to Environment Ministers for analysis and a report, the matter would not go away.
“I do think that coastal erosion and in particular the impact on houses, roads, rail, communities across Australia will grow as an issue, particularly as sea-level rise occurs and I suspect in future years the Commonwealth, states and local governments will need to reach accommodations and agreements around those things,” Premier McGowan said.